Tulare County, Calif. (KMPH News) — The clock is ticking for dozens of people living along the St. Johns River in the South Valley.
They now have less than 72–hours to pack up and leave.
The Tulare County Sheriff's Department says the eviction is in response to neighbor complaints of the increasing number of homeless people moving into the area and loitering.
The encampment is located on the north end of Visalia, near Ben Maddox and Saint Johns Parkway.
For Donny Walker tent city is home. The former construction worker has been living there for the past three and a half months, for the same reason he says many others are.
"The economy, I got laid off," Walker said.
Walker's luck is about to run out again.
"We have given them notices," Sgt. Chris Douglas said. "On [November 16th] we will be removing people from the area."
Deputies will begin issuing two hour eviction notices starting at 7:00am Monday.
"We will close down the area so people can not come in, they can only leave the area," said Sgt. Douglas. "Any property left behind will be packaged up and taken over to our headquarters."
Walker says he's not leaving without a fight.
"I'm going to be handcuffed to that cross right there," Walker said. "I'm not trying to send a message outside that we have no place to go and there is no reason to make us leave. People have been living here for 30 years and all of a sudden it's a problem?"
Douglas says within the past year about 200 have moved in and the eviction should come as no surprise. The Tulare County Sheriff's Department began issuing notices last month after nearby landowners started complaining about the increasing number of people trespassing.
"They are camping on property that does not belong to them," Sgt. Douglas said. "They need to go somewhere else."
Once the tent city is cleared out and cleaned up Douglas says deputies will be assigned to patrol the St. Johns River area to make sure more camps don't pop up in the near future.
"All other evictions like this in Fresno and Sacramento, all of the other places have given people somewhere to go and in this case the city of Visalia is not offering us anything," Walker said. "There is no place for us to go."
County officials say all campers have received referrals to homeless shelters and other crisis programs.
"There has been a variety of organizations that have stepped up to help provide information — groups like Continuum of Care, social services, mental health services, a lot of other county entities that have resources available to these people," Douglas said.
The problem with that according to Walker is most of the 40 people remaining are not allowed at certain shelters.
"There are no agencies in Tulare County to house couples," Walker said. "The people left out here are almost all homeless couples."
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